This week we revisit a past episode. Enjoy!
Sometimes when we aren’t writing – but we wish we were – it’s because we are waiting for something. Waiting for better circumstances. Waiting for better timing. But what if you could write despite not having things be “better” or “perfect”? This is what we’re talking about this week as we explore our mindset when it comes to what we think we need in order to write.
Hi, I’m Stephanie Dethlefs, writer and book coach. And this is the Hello Writer’s podcast. Each week. I give you one practical strategy or a concept to apply to writing your novel. Welcome. Hello writers. What I’m about to read to you is a short scene from the sixth book in the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. And it’s called the Ersatz Elevator.
Are you ready? Klaus asked finally. No, Sunny answered. Me neither, Violet said, but if we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives. Let’s go. What are you waiting for with regard to your writing life? What will quote, unquote ready look like? Is it a perfect office a day to yourself, your children moving up and out your divorce to be finalized? Is it an idea? You know, without a shadow of a doubt will be a best seller or the story that makes you jump out of bed every morning, ready and excited to get to work. So I ask again, what are you waiting for? I don’t intend this question to sound like I’m practically scolding you to get started as in, come on, let’s go. What are you waiting for? No, I’m asking this question genuinely with curiosity and love and respect.
What are you waiting for? What is it that you think will make the circumstances ideal for consistent writing? I spent a lot of years attending writing conferences, book tours, reading books, about writing. I joined Facebook groups for writers of my genres and write interviews with accomplished authors, all of, in the name of becoming a better, more productive writer on reflection over time, I’ve realized that the truth was I was taking those actions because I wanted to understand what a perfect recipe for a writer’s life looked like. What time did they get up in the morning? How much did they write each day? Did they have day jobs? Did they have children? What exactly was their daily schedule? And most importantly, what was their trick to managing it all? So, listen, I’m not saying we shouldn’t attend these events and read the books and interviews. I still do.
I always will. And I encourage you to do the same, but what I’m trying to say is I wasn’t being intentional for a lot of years about why I was there. And so I let my wild mind run all over the place, basically, because I was feeling insecure about my own writing. I wanted to hold my own life up in comparison to theirs and to be able to point at my own circumstances and say there, see, that’s why I can’t write that’s what needs to change. Whether it was my schedule, my kids, my job, my writing space, my yoga practice, my chocolate consumption, whatever. Every time I listen to another writer, a more prolific writer than me talk about her practice. I found another place where my own writing life was lacking. And consequently, I didn’t write very much. I was waiting until I had the exact right amount of available time each day at the exact right time of day, I was waiting until I had a beautiful office with windows, looking out onto an orchard or a lake where bird songs wafted through my open window.
And no other sounds could be heard because I was blissfully alone. I was waiting until no one needed me on call for meals or diapers or skin knees or broken hearts. I was waiting until I was independently wealthy and could write without worrying about earning money. I was waiting until the morning when I woke up, having had a vivid dream that we’d become an overnight best-selling dystopian trilogy with movie rights, you name it. I was waiting for it. So I’ll bet that some of this is resonating with you and I have good news. So while you may not be able to change the circumstances into your quote unquote perfect scenario, you can change the action of waiting. Our thoughts, create feelings or emotions.
And then we take action based on those feelings. So if I think that my circumstances aren’t conducive to writing, and that can be a really specific thought, like I don’t have a good space to write, or it could just be broad, like writing doesn’t fit in my life right now. I’ll feel something like disappointed or frustrated or aid or impatient or some other emotion that probably feels more negative than positive in order to feel better. I will likely do one of two things, either not write at all and distract myself from the whole experience or I’ll consume more writerly content. Like I was talking about before in an attempt to figure it out, regardless of which of those actions I take, I’m not going to be writing. And it’ll be one more day. That’s gone by that. I’ve been waiting rather than writing. But if my thought is something along the lines of it is possible for me to write in my current circumstances, then my feelings might be more like openness or willingness or even a little enthusiasm, which of course could lead to less waiting and more writing.
So today’s action step is to consider what it is that you’ve been waiting for. Basically, you’re going to ask yourself these three questions. What am I waiting for in my physical space? And another way you could ask this question and the other two is what do I think I need in my physical writing space? What am I waiting for in my schedule? And what am I waiting for in my mindset? I suggest that you spend a few minutes on each one and just see what comes up. It might surprise you as always, when we look at our thoughts, we want to resist the urge to judge them. They’re just simply our minds at work, and there’s nothing wrong or bad about that. Let your mind come up with what it comes up with and then decide. Do you want to keep waiting for these things or are you willing to start despite these things, as violet says in the Ersatz Elevator, if we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives. Let’s go. I’ll see you next week.
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